Monday, April 26, 2010

Migration Notes

Broad-winged Hawk at Pheasant Branch

Northerly winds and storms hindered bird migration into southern Wisconsin over the weekend, so I didn't spend much time at the conservancy. I walked the trial yesterday in the rain, but found only a single Yellow-rumped Warbler. On Friday I was thrilled to find my first Broad-winged Hawk of spring. A few times during my life I've been fortunate to spot large kettles of migrating Broad-winged Hawks soaring on thermals (a remarkable sight), but typically I spot only a few of these semi-secretive hawks during spring.

Though migration has been somewhat stalled, we've experienced an early leaf-out here. It's going to be tough searching through the canopy of leaves for songbirds; birding by ear will be utterly essential this May. I'm growing anxious for the return of more warblers. So far I've had Yellow-rumped, Palm, Pine, and Louisiana Waterthrush. By the end of this week, I'm anticipating the arrival of Black-and-White, Black-throated Green, Orange-crowned, and Nashville Warblers.

Having my prognostications met in nature in no way diminishes significance and meaning of the experience when greeting a morning choir of birds. In fact, I feel relieved whenever it does, though I always enjoy nature's surprises and mysteries. Each and every bird that calls or sings within earshot counts for something, whether the sheer joy of hearing a song I haven't heard for a year, a banding code quickly scribbled in my notebook, or a veritable piece of scientific data I'll enter into eBird. Birding cultivates good observation skills as much as it grows respect for all things wild - habits, habitats, and an elevated appreciation for what it must be like to be a wild creature that can fly.

Location: Pheasant Branch
Observation date: 4/23/10
Number of species: 38

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Cooper's Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Broad-winged Hawk © 2010 Mike McDowell


  1. I still have not added a Broad-Winged off of my checklist! Can you believe that?? We have to go birding soon!

  2. When I was a kid saw many large kettles of BW's...last big one I saw was 2007(Oconto) and smaller "migrating over the trees" ones near Kewaunee ...I think their populations have (are) going down...

  3. They've been declining about 2% annually since 1980.

    Mike M.

  4. Kettle of 25 just West of Kewaunee on Fri, with a red-tailed and osprey with them...also many doubles later towards town and a couple of SS Hawks.